NATHAN CLARKE is aiming to prove he's back for the long haul.
The 21-year-old defender was delighted to be recalled by manager Peter Jackson against Hartlepool after missing the first two matches of the season.
Despite being sacrificed for an extra striker as Town tried in vain to recover a two-goal deficit against Neale Cooper's side, Clarke made a solid return.
And the Academy product is now setting sights on completing a full season at Coca-Cola League I level - and injury free for the first time in his career!
"It was frustrating being left out of the side and being on the bench, but that's the gaffer's choice," said Clarke, whose younger brother, Tom, has been called into the England Under 19 training camp next month.
"I was always working hard in training to try and prove a point that I was worth a go and I was chuffed to bits when I got the nod.
"It is no use sitting around and moaning when you are not in the team. You've got to keep your head up and be nice and bright in training.
"It was on Sunday that the gaffer took me on one side and said you've played well, you've worked hard in training and I'm going to put you back in the side.
"It was great to hear after missing the first couple of games and he just told me to do the best I could."
Clarke got the vote ahead of the reliable Steve Yates because of his ability to pass the ball out accurately from the back.
His long throw is also useful, not to mention his heading ability at free-kicks and his general calm in the sweeper position.
"I thought we shaded the first half against Hartlepool and we were confident about the second half if we could get a break in front of goal - but unfortunately it never came," said Clarke.
"If Andy Booth had scored early on then we would have been laughing and it would have been a different game, but in the end it was Hartlepool who got the breaks and it was very disappointing.
"The important thing, though, as the gaffer said after the game, is for everyone to keep their heads up.
"We have suffered a painful blip, but that's all it is.
"We know we can play a lot better and, in these big games coming up, let's go out and prove it.
"Everyone knows that Boothy and Junior Mendes are capable of scoring goals and that the likes of Pawel Abbott and Chris Brandon will get on the end of chances, aso we've just got to keep on creating them."
Clarke is particularly looking forward to Tuesday's Carling Cup-tie against Leeds United at Elland Road (7.45).
As a lifelong Town fan, he understands the rivalry and can't wait to lock horns with Kevin Blackwell's new-look Championship side.
"When you look at Sheffield Wednesday (today) followed by Leeds United, they are two massive games for us," said Clarke, who has had eye, ankle and knee problems in the past.
"Playing in front of huge crowds like that is fantastic and we'll have more than 5,000 of our own fans at Elland Road on Tuesday, which is just brilliant.
"We all know Leeds were here watching us against Hartlepool and doing their homework, but they will need to because we are an exciting side when we get on the ball and play like we can.
"We will create chances and, after missing out in the last couple of games, I'm sure we'll stick some away.
"Nothing much has been said among the lads about the game because we've had League business on our minds, but once we get there on Tuesday we'll be up for it and ready to go."
Clarke is particularly keen to do well, recognising that the presence of Yates, David Mirfin and Efe Sodje (plus the developing John McCombe) spells a battle for first-team shirts.
"My intention is to get in the gaffer's face over these next few games and prove I should be a regular in the first team," he said. "We have tremendous competition for places through the squad, not just at the back.
"In midfield, for instance, we've added Chris Brandon to the squad and he's already vying with Lee Fowler, Danny Schofield, Tony Carss and Jon Worthington.
"Hopefully, competition like that will bring out the best in all of us."